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What to see at Open House Melbourne

There are more than 200 buildings to see, so which ones should you prioritise?

St Vincent's hospital tunnel
Photograph: Supplied

More than 200 buildings that are normally closed to the public will open their doors July 28-29 for Open House Melbourne. The program is free but bookings are essential at quite a few, so make sure that you check the website to see if you can get into the buildings you want.

Love Melbourne's architecture? Check out our list of Melbourne's most beautiful buildings. And if you want to document some for posterity, these are the most Instragrammable places in Melbourne

Three of the best buildings to see at Open House 2018

Arts Centre Performing Arts Collection
Photograph: Supplied

Arts Centre Melbourne

icon-location-pin Southbank

Melbourne’s performing arts hub offers backstage tours every Sunday, offering visitors behind-the-scenes access to the State Theatre, Fairfax Studio, Playhouse and Hamer Hall. On the tour you can see costumes, sets and props from current productions, visit the stars’ dressing rooms and even make your own stage debut at some of Melbourne’s most famous performing spaces. But the truly rare, hidden secret at Arts Centre Melbourne is the extensive Performing Arts Collection, and you can only see that during Open House Melbourne. The space is deep inside Hamer Hall, behind a secret door, and it houses more than 610,000 items of performance art history: such treasures as Dame Nellie Melba’s costume wardrobe, Kylie Minogue’s costumes and red-carpet looks, and three-dimensional set models for shows. A particular highlight is Barry Humphries’ Dame Edna archives – it includes not only ornate and elaborate costumes (many with working parts) but also some marked-up scripts. There are six tours of the Performing Arts Collection running each day of Open House Melbourne weekend. Numbers are very limited – just 15 or so lucky Melburnians get to go on each one. 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne 3004.

Temperance Hall
Photograph: Supplied

Temperance Hall

Built in 1863 in South Melbourne by the Emerald Hill Total Abstinence Society, Temperance Hall was the site of alcohol-free concerts, dances, lectures and other public gatherings. The building was home to numerous organisations (the South Melbourne Football Club – now of course the Sydney Swans – was said to have been formed at a meeting at the hall in 1874) and is now home to Phillip Adams BalletLab. The hall was lovingly restored, but not renovated – much of the building is in its original condition, cracks, faded paint and all. You feel the history of the space in every nook and cranny, from some original furniture to the windows on the first floor, which are too high to look directly out of and encourage your gaze heavenward. From the beautiful main hall downstairs to the chief rulers’ office and the grand staircase, Temperance Hall is a 150-year walk back in time and well worth a visit during Open House Melbourne. 199 Napier St, South Melbourne 3205.

St Vincent's hospital tunnel
Photograph: Supplied

St Vincent's Hospital Tunnels

The 164-metre tunnel connecting St Vincent’s Public Hospital and the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital under Victoria Parade was opened in 1983 and was designed to make it easier for patients and staff to travel between the hospitals. The tunnel was built using equipment that was sitting idle following the completion of the Thompson Dam in Gippsland. Lighting is entirely on the sides, so patients with eye difficulties being transported on their backs won’t be bothered by lights shining in their faces. The tunnel is also used to transport prisoners who are being treated at St Vincent’s, and it featured in the video clip for the Whitlams’ song ‘Fall for You’. In addition to the tunnel, St Vincent’s will be highlighting its 125th anniversary of the hospital with informative historical displays and photographs. 41 Victoria Pde, Fitzroy 3065.

Ten other amazing buildings to see at Open House 2018

University of Melbourne exterior
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Open House Melbourne wishlist

Here are some more buildings in Open House Melbourne 2018 that might pique your interest… 

  • East Melbourne Synagogue The oldest continually operating synagogue in Victoria has been part of Melbourne’s Jewish community since 1877. 488 Albert St, East Melbourne 3002.
  • Substation ‘J’ Wear closed-toed, flat shoes and explore the fascinating history of Melbourne’s early electricity grid. Cnr Lonsdale & Spencer St, Melbourne 3000.
  • Melbourne Athenaeum Theatre and Library Designed in 1921, the Athenaeum is one of Melbourne’s most popular theatre spaces – but most people don’t know it houses a full library within it, open to the public. 188 Collins St, Melbourne 3000.
  • University of Melbourne, Newman College This Walter Burley Griffin-designed Gothic Revival-style building comprises a chapel, dining room and student accommodation. 887 Swanston St, Parkville 3052.
  • Port of Melbourne Australia’s largest container and general cargo port handles more than a third of the country’s container trade and hosts 3000 ships a year. The tour will visit three of the busiest docks. Victoria Harbour, 892 Collins St, Docklands 3008.
  • Fitzroy Town Hall This 19th-century town hall is the result of Melbourne’s growing wealth during the gold rush years. 201 Napier St, Fitzroy 3065.
  • 3CR Community Radio Australia’s first community-owned and run radio station is still going strong after 40 years. Visitors on the tour will get to step inside a studio and record a message, as well as watch programming go live to air. 21 Smith St, Fitzroy 3065.
  • Portable Iron Houses These three corrugated iron-and-wood houses are typical 19th-century prefabricated buildings, which were put up in haste to cope with the huge influx of people flocking to Melbourne. 399 Coventry St, South Melbourne 3205.
  • Melbourne General Cemetery It’s final resting place of Robert Menzies, explorers Burke and Wills, and operatic bass-baritone Federici, who died on stage at the Princess Theatre and is said to haunt it still. College Cr, Parkville 3052.
  • Hawthorn Tram Depot Opened in 1916, this tram depot was once the site of a conductor and inspector school and houses the city’s heritage tram fleet. 8 Wallen Rd, Hawthorn 3122.

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Croft Alley, Melbourne Street Art 2017, Photo credit: Graham Denholm
Photograph: Graham Denholm
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